It all started in a little place called Cambridge in 1855 when a group of gentlemen from Trinity College began discussing ghosts and psychic phenomena. The official coming out, or formal announcement of The Ghost Club appeared in The Times (London),1862. As far as we know, The Ghost Club is considered to be the first organization of its kind to include respected academic figures. Not only did they openly share and exchange ideas on psychical abilities, but members also participated in paranormal investigations.
Spiritualism came into vogue during the Victorian era in response or rather rebellion to Puritan ways. Many Victorians were inclined to abandon conventional religious teachings for a more enlightened way of thinking. It's thought that the writings of Charles Darwin, Emmanuel Swedenborg, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the reputable physicist, Sir William Crookes played a role in influencing the turn in thought.
One of The Ghost Club's earliest members was Charles Dickens. I can only speculate that discussions from these gatherings had some creative influence on his story-writing, including the classic tale, The Christmas Carole.
The founding members actively investigated places considered haunted and people claiming to have psychic ability. One of the group's earliest investigations turned out to be the debunking of the Davenport Brother's spirit cabinet. Even though they proved it was a hoax, it was never officially published in The Times.
After Dicken's death, The Ghost Club dissolved until it was revived on All Saints Day in 1882 by Alfred Alaric Watts and Reverend Stainton Moses. At the same time, another group formed, The Society for Psychical Research (SPR). Some people in the community, including Reverend Stainton Moses were members of both organizations. The fundamental difference being that The Ghost Club remained a secretive and selective group of true believers in the paranormal, whereas, SPR was made up of individuals dedicated solely to the scientific study of psychical phenomena.
All historical documentation of The Ghost Club's existence barely escaped being destroyed. During an 18 month wrap of the club's meetings, and due to the confidential nature, members suggested that any trace be erased. However, the British Museum agreed to keep the clubs material secret until 1962.
Despite deaths, internal disruption and changing of club presidents, The Ghost Club still remains. The club continues to meet monthly at the Victory Services Club in London and yearly investigations are scheduled.
Judging by the number of television reality shows and movies in the current market, you'd think interest in all things paranormal was a fairly new trend. However, this is not the case. With increased circulation into the mainstream, a lot of misinformation and exploitation regarding paranormal phenomena continues. I truly hope the good will outweigh the bad. Perhaps, it will generate continued scientific research, influence creative thought and heighten the general acceptance of things that we can't readily explain.